There are so many parallels in the presidencies of Obama and Lincoln I won't list them here. Google “Obama Lincoln” and you will see them. I didn’t see them until I was reading America Aflame by David Goldfield. Happy birthday, Abe. Watching for a second term, Barry.
First the book gave me a broader context for understanding religion in America, so that the conflict this week about contraceptives and religious freedom was no surprise [see post above]. Second, Goldfield frightened me by describing politics in America during the 1840's and 1850's, because they were so like our own. When our Senators today begin to attack each other physically, as they did then, I will know that civil war is imminent. Third, Lincoln was presented in a different light, not the superhuman, saintly figure of American mythology. The political maneuvers that led to the death of the Whig party and the birth of the Republican party parallel the struggles within the Republican party of today. Columnists plead for a rebirth of that party so that we can have substantive debate in this country.
Lincoln did not promise to end slavery before or even after his election as President. He argued against the spread of slavery to the west. The “South” saw that they would become a smaller minority in Congress and the Senate as more states were added to the Republic. Their way of life, their economy, and their political power based on slavery was threatened. They seceded based on their fears. They hated Lincoln because he supported growth, development, and entrance into the modern world. He was seen, perhaps correctly, as the tool of railroad and other interests that would benefit financially from westward expansion. (I think the railroads were actually a bust, but there was money to be made in trading stocks.) The rest of the modern world had already given up slavery or soon would.
Obama is hated by many Southerners and others who represent the old South and its mythology. His haters make up all sorts of things about him, often contradictory complaints. Is he a radical Black theologian, a Muslim, or an atheist who hates all religions? His actions are thoughtful and pragmatic and yet he is accused of being a dangerous radical. His actions may have saved capitalism, but he is called a socialist or a communist by people who can’t define those words. He compromises but is called a tyrant. He drives his supporters crazy and can’t seem to work with Congress.
Lincoln couldn’t get his programs through, either. He couldn’t find a general who would fight and win for more than two years. Obama can count several war successes much to the consternation of his base supporters. Both gave intelligent speeches that often didn't inspire.
Enough of this for now. I still fear for Obama’s life. If he were martyred, the narrative of his comparison with Lincoln would flood the world. In the background of Lincoln’s Presidency, Charles Darwin, also born on Feb. 12, was presenting the world explanations that would propel natural science into the future. Schliermacher, D.F. Strauss, Feuerbach, and others were deconstructing scripture and writing theology based on human experience. The same forces that oppose Obama deny Darwin’s Truths and rely on Sunday School faith as adults. Somehow I feel sometimes that I am actually living in the 19th century.